I’ve been meaning to change the name of my blog for quite a while now. I only meant “Something Different” to be a kind of interim title until I could think of something better. I had been playing around with different possibilities for quite a while, but nothing really seemed to stick. Finally, while sitting in McDonalds at the Karachi airport with my parents, the new name came.
I have owned the same pair of sandals for as long as I can remember. Not the exact same pair, but the same style — I just buy a bigger size every time I grow out of them. They’ve gone with me everywhere. I’ve picked up huge thorns in them dozens of times, snapped the straps on some and worn other pairs right down till I could feel the road on my bare heel. I love them. They’re comfortable. After a number of years, my sandals (I actually call them chapals, as they’re called in Pakistan) have become even more significant to me. They bring back all kinds of memories from growing up.
They make me think of the dust that would cover my feet while I played outside, until I would finally wash them off with a hose and see those strange white toes peeking out at me. They remind me of the intense heat in the summer, when wearing shoes is just plain silly. I always wished my sandals had been part of my school uniform when I was little, instead of the hot, stuffy shoes I had to wear. Besides, you never have to polish blue, rubber sandals. I would have probably been barefoot outside all the time if it wasn’t for the sharp rocks and bits of garbage that were everywhere outside. My sandals remind me of arguments with my mum over whether or not the floppy, blue things were really church-worthy attire. I tried so many times, but I always lost. After being in college in Canada for over a year, and with my parents on the other side of the world, I did actually wear them to church once, in an act of rebellious defiance and newfound freedom. I suppose that’s one of the privileges of being an adult.
While visiting my parents over Christmas, I remember being told the news that my younger brother, Stephen had recently bought a different pair of sandals — not the blue ones. I remember voicing all kids of complaints, pretending to be so crushed by this break in his loyalty to our blue sandals (it’s been a tradition for both of us). I wasn’t seriously heart-broken, but there was a little part of me that was genuinely disappointed. It was serious history. Thankfully when we picked him up that evening from the airport, we found out that he hadn’t actually bought a new pair. There had been a miscommunication. He had actually decided to wait and look for sandals in the Sindh, because he couldn’t find the blue ones up north. My faith in my little brother was restored.
The fact that both of us have always had the exact same pair of sandals has been a little bit of a problem at times, but we’ve always managed. It used to be that we could tell the difference because mine were always the bigger ones, but those days came to an end quite a few years ago. When in doubt, we could always tell them apart by putting a pair on. The rubber sandals have a way of forming to your feet, so putting on my brother’s would mean I could tell straight away that they weren’t mine — their strange surface feeling like a foreign species to my toes. Sometimes we would take each others on purpose, or wear one of each, just to hear the other shout, “Give me back my chapals now! Yours feel so weird!” This last time we were home, Stephen decided it would be easiest to just write his initials on his pair, since they were both fairly new and hadn’t had time to get worn-in.
So, after all these years of my love story with my blue sandals, I was all ready to get onto the plane at the end of my Christmas break and fly back to Canada wearing my blue sandals. I had put on a collared shirt, and a nice pair of pants, because wearing at least semi-formal clothing when travelling tends to gain you a little more respect and friendliness. It was then that my mum made the comment “You know Josh, you’d look like a normal foreigner if it wasn’t for those silly Sindhi chapals.” Finally I had my blog name. I really would look like any other foreign businessman if I had decided instead to wear a pair of nice dress shoes. But instead, my façade of being Western was destroyed with my blue sandals. They have a really hard time matching with any and everything I wear — though I try hard to ague that they do.
The sandals aren’t really Sindhi. I’m pretty sure they sell them all over Pakistan. But I’ve never actually bought them anywhere other than the Sindh. Not only that, but all the memories associated with them take me back to my years growing up in the Sindh, playing in the streets with friends and running around in my blue chapals. They’re just one little reminder of the fact that, although almost everything about me makes me look like I should be a Canadian, my silly blue sandals make sure that something about me is always a little different. I just hope they keep making these sandals, because if they ever stop, I’m not really sure what I’ll do.